The Invasion of Europe
by the Barbarians
The Raiding of Italy and Gaul
The causes of this change are not indicated in our authorities, but there is one thing which had probably something to do with it, a thing which is even in itself of very great historical importance. The Gothic  soldier Gaïnas, who was responsible for the murder of Rufinus, the praetorian prefect, aspired to being in the east what Stilicho was in the west. He rebelled against the government of Arcadius, forced it to yield to his demands, and for about six months exercised a power that was almost supreme in Constantinople. But there was a very strong and determined anti-German party there, and they gained a decisive victory over Gaïnas and his Gothic troops; and the danger, which at one moment seemed serious, of a Germanisation of the government in the east was averted. Now we may take it that Alaric had found support in the party of Gaïnas, and that the fall of that general in A.D. 400 altered his prospects. At all events, it was in the year 401 that he determined to bring pressure to bear, not upon Constantinople, but on the government in Italy. It is not improbable that he demanded a settlement and lands for his people in some of the northern provinces of the Prefecture of Italy, perhaps in Noricum.
But in threatening the west he did not act alone. He acted simultaneously, though there is no reason to think that he acted in concert, with a somewhat mysterious German named Radagaisus. Radagaisus was probably an Ostrogoth; he may have been one of the Ostrogoths who had been allowed to settle in Pannonia by Gratian; but perhaps he and his followers had taken up their abode just beyond the frontiers, on the other side of the Danube. Towards the end of 401 Radagaisus and a host of barbarians invaded Raetia and at the same time marched to the borders of Italy. It was a critical moment for Stilicho, on whom the defence of Italy devolved. He marched into the Alpine regions of Raetia against Radagaisus,  who seems to have moved first, and he was successful in repelling and driving out the invaders. Then he led his troops back south of the Alps to deal with Alaric and the Visigoths, who had already been three months in north Italy, meeting no resistance and causing the utmost consternation among the Italians, who had long been accustomed to regard Italian soil as inaccessible to foreign invasion. The young Emperor Honorius was trembling in Milan, and thought of fleeing to Gaul. Alaric had captured Aquileia and all the towns of Venetia, and was already beginning a siege of Milan, hoping to seize the Emperor's person, when Stilicho arrived just in time to relieve it. Alaric raised the siege and marched westward into Piedmont, followed by Stilicho. Finally he halted at Pollentia on the river Tanarus, and gave battle. This was not the only battle that Alaric fought against the forces of the Empire, but it was far the most famous. It was fought on Easter Day in A.D. 402 and was indecisive, but strategically it was a victory for the imperial army and Stilicho.
Alaric's position became untenable, and he marched into Tuscany. Some members of his family fell into the hands of the Romans. He was glad to make terms with Stilicho. We do not know precisely what the conditions were, but it was certainly arranged that the Visigoths should leave Italy, and there was probably an understanding that they should afterwards assist Stilicho in carrying out the plan on which he was set, of annexing the Prefecture of Illyricum to the Western Empire. Alaric left Italy by the way he had come. But for more than a year he lingered near the borders of the peninsula in Istria and Dalmatia; and then becoming impatient, and perhaps being  pressed by want of provisions, he again forced his way into Italy, but was met by Stilicho near Verona and decisively repelled. This was in the autumn of 403. A new agreement was made, and Alaric seems to have withdrawn immediately to his old station in Epirus.
The Italian enterprise of Alaric had been a failure. Whatever he wanted, he had not got it. But though a failure it was an important episode in Alaric's career, and that career occupies an important, even unique, place in the story of the breaking up of the Empire.
The formation of barbarian settlements within the Empire had been a recognised principle of policy for two hundred years, and it was difficult for anyone in Stilicho's day to conceive that it would ultimately lead to the disappearance of the imperial authority. Such an idea was equally beyond the visions of  Stilicho and of Alaric. We can see plainly that the federate Germans within the Empire were as powerful a force of disruption, and more insidious, than the Germans without the Empire. But for Stilicho there was a gulf fixed between the outside enemies who attacked the frontier and the inside strangers who were linked to the Empire. Against the former he was ready to be ruthless, but the latter were on a different footing; they were part of the system of the Empire, they were to be managed rather than crushed. In the heart of Stilicho this feeling would naturally have been stronger than in a minister of Roman descent; for Stilicho was himself sprung from such federate settlers. But beside this general consideration there can be no doubt that there was a particular motive. It was Stilicho's object to keep Alaric within the precincts of the eastern half of the Empire. He was not ready to admit Gothic settlements within the Prefecture of Italy; but the existence of a strong Gothic power in Illyricum suited his policy, and he foresaw that Alaric might in certain eventualities be a useful ally. I have already touched on the hostility which prevailed between the courts and ministers of the two sons of Theodosius, and pointed out that one of the difficulties and causes of discord was the boundary between the two realms. Stilicho and the western government desired to draw the line of division farther east, and to add to the dominion of Honorius, if not the whole Prefecture of Illyricum, at all events the northern portion of it—corresponding to Serbia and the western part of Bulgaria. When the moment should come for carrying the wish into effect, Alaric's aid might be invaluable. The policy of Stilicho, therefore, was  not to crush Alaric, but to keep him quiet, by negotiations and management, in the Illyrian provinces of Arcadius. And for nearly five years after the battle of Verona, 403-408, Alaric and his Goths dwelled under their rooftrees in Epirus, without attempting any new enterprise. In 405 Alaric's former ally Radagaisus descended with a great horde upon Italy; but Alaric took no part in this campaign, and Stilicho's strategy destroyed the barbarians at Fiesole without a battle. Here Stilicho showed that he had no scruples in crushing a German foe.
That was one consequence of these invasions at the beginning of the fifth century. Another result was that a new disposition of the military forces of the Empire was rendered necessary; and this led inevitably to an event which was fraught with the most far-reaching and fatal consequences to the Empire, an event that occurred in A.D. 406.
Italy was no longer safe, and the troops which  should have been holding the Rhine frontier were wanted for the defence of Italy and the imperial capital. In the year 406 the Rhine barrier was practically open, and the opportunity was seized by a vast mixed horde of barbarians who streamed across. This was one of the greatest events in the period of the Germanic wanderings, and it brought a larger and more sudden change in the western province than any other single barbarian movement. It begins a new period in the history of the West German peoples who dwelled along the Rhine. Had it not been for the existence of the Roman power, their natural expansion would have long ago carried them westward to the Atlantic; but they had been curbed by the Roman barrier. Now at length the Roman barrier is giving way, and the West Germans will have a chance of encroaching. The important historical fact that I would emphasise is that this change was not brought about by the West Germans themselves. It was brought about by the East Germans; and brought about through operations not on the Rhine frontier itself, but in another part of Europe. It was the movements of Alaric and his Visigoths, of Radagaisus the Ostrogoth and his mixed hosts, that forced the Roman government to denude the Gallic frontier in order to defend Italy. These were the principal causes and consequences of Alaric's first Italian campaign and the invasions of Radagaisus. The imperial power in Gaul receives a blow from which it will never recover; the influence of Italy upon Gaul is reduced and will continue to diminish.
But not only was it owing to the East German movements in another quarter that the Rhine frontier  was left inadequately protected, but the first great irruption through the barrier was a movement which was principally East German. Of those hordes of barbarians who streamed across the river at the end of 406 the most important were East German peoples. The invaders consisted of four peoples, two of which, the most numerous and important, were Vandals. The third were Sueves; and the fourth were of non-Germanic race, the Alans. The Vandals were East Germans. They had come, like the Goths, southward from the Baltic shores.
The name Vandal was applied not to a single people, but to several closely related peoples. The two peoples which concern us were the Asdings and the Silings. The Asdings took the name of Vandals, which was doubtless an older name of their race. The Silings also took the same name, and some time in the third century a considerable number of them, though not the whole people, migrated westward and appeared in the time of the Emperor Probus on the river Main.
The Asding Vandals were then neighbours of the Visigoths of Dacia, and throughout the fourth century there were hostilities between them, which finally resulted in a great defeat of the Vandals. And for a generation we do not hear of them. But about the year 400 their population had increased; their settlements no longer sufficed for their numbers—of this we have explicit evidence. So they determined to migrate, and in 406 took the decisive step at the favourable moment when the Roman troops had been withdrawn from the Rhine. They were joined by a West German people, probably the Quadi, who had belonged to the old Suevic confederacy and took the  name of Sueves; also by a non-Germanic people, the Alans, whom we already met driven westward before the Huns. When they approached the Rhine they were further joined by their kinsfolk the Vandal Silings, who, as we saw, had formed a home on the Main. All four peoples poured across the Rhine.
This event was decisive for the future history of western Europe, though the government of Ravenna had little idea what its consequences would be. But Stilicho was at least bound to hasten to the rescue of the Gallic provincials. Instead of doing this, however, he busied himself (A.D. 407) with his designs on Illyricum which the invasion of Radagaisus had compelled him to postpone. The unfriendliness which had long existed between the eastern and western courts had come to a crisis when the ecclesiastics whom Honorius had sent to remonstrate with his brother on the treatment of Chrysostom were flung into prison. It was a sufficient pretext for Stilicho to close the Italian ports to the ships of the subjects of Arcadius and break off all intercourse between the two realms. Alaric was warned to hold Epirus for Honorius; and Jovius was appointed, in anticipation, Praetorian Prefect of Illyricum. Stilicho was at Ravenna, making ready to cross the Hadriatic, when a report reached him that Alaric was dead. It was a false report, but it caused delay; and then came the alarming news that a certain Constantine in Britain had been proclaimed Emperor and had crossed over to Gaul. Once again the design of Stilicho was thwarted. He might look with indifference on the presence of barbarian foes in the provinces beyond the Alps, but he could not neglect the duty of devising measures against a rebel.
But Stilicho's position was not so secure as it seemed. His daughter, the Empress Maria, was dead, but Honorius had been induced to wed her sister Aemilia Materna Thermantia, and Stilicho might think that his influence over the Emperor was impregnable, and might still hope for the union of his son with Placidia. But any popularity he had won by the victory over Gildo, by the expulsion of Alaric from Italy, by the defeat of Radagaisus, was ebbing away. The misfortunes in Gaul, which had been occupied by a tyrant and was being plundered by barbarians, were attributed to his incapacity or treachery, and his ambiguous relations with Alaric had only resulted in a new danger for Italy. It was  whispered that his designs on eastern Illyricum only covered the intention of a triple division of the Empire, in which his own son Eucherius should be the third imperial colleague. Both he and his wife Serena were detested by the pagan families of Rome who still possessed predominant influence in the capital. Nor was his popularity with the army unimpaired. While he and Honorius were at Rome in the spring of A.D. 408, a friend warned him that the spirit of the troops stationed at Ticinum was far from friendly to his government.
Honorius was at Bononia (Bologna), on his way back to Ravenna, when the news of the death of his brother Arcadius reached him (May). He entertained the idea of proceeding to Constantinople to protect the interests of his child-nephew, Theodosius; and he summoned Stilicho for consultation. Stilicho dissuaded him from this plan, urging that it would be fatal for the legitimate Emperor to leave Italy while a usurper was in possession of Gaul. He undertook himself to travel to the eastern capital, arguing that during his absence there would be no danger from Alaric, if he were given a commission to march against Constantine. The death of Arcadius had presented to Stilicho too good an opportunity to be lost for prosecuting his design on Illyricum. Honorius agreed, and official letters were drafted, signed, and sent, on the one hand to Alaric instructing him to restore the Emperor's authority in Gaul, and, on the other hand, to Theodosius regarding Stilicho's mission to Constantinople.
But Stilicho's career was at an end. The Emperor proceeded to Ticinum (Pavia), and there a plot was woven for the destruction of the powerful and  unsuspecting minister. Olympius, a palace official, who had opportunities of access to Honorius on the journey, let fall calumnious suggestions that Stilicho was planning to do away with Theodosius and place his own son on the eastern throne. At Ticinum he sowed the same suspicions among the troops, who were discontented and mutinous. His efforts brought about a military revolt, in which nearly all the highest officials who were in attendance on the Emperor, including the Praetorian Prefects of Italy and Gaul, were slain (August 13).
The first thought of Stilicho—when the confused story of these alarming occurrences reached him at Bononia, and it was doubtful whether the Emperor himself had not been killed—was to march at the head of the barbarian troops who were with him and punish the mutineers. But when he was reassured that the Emperor was safe, reflexion made him hesitate to use the barbarians against Romans. His German followers, conspicuous among them Sarus the Goth, were eager to act and indignant at the change of his resolve. He went himself to Ravenna, probably to assure himself of the loyalty of the garrison; but Honorius, at the instigation of Olympius, wrote to the commander instructions to arrest the great Master of Soldiers. Stilicho under cover of night took refuge in a church, but the next day allowed himself to be taken forth and imprisoned on the assurance that the imperial order was not to put him to death, but to detain him under guard. Then a second letter arrived, ordering his execution. The foreign retainers of his household, who had accompanied him to Ravenna, attempted to rescue him, but he peremptorily forbade them to interfere, and was beheaded (August 22, A.D. 408). His  executioner, Heraclian, was rewarded by the post of Count of Africa. His son Eucherius was put to death soon afterwards at Rome, and the Emperor hastened to repudiate Thermantia, who was restored a virgin to her mother. The estates of the fallen minister were confiscated as a matter of course. There had been no pretence of a trial, his treason was taken for granted; but after his execution there was an inquisition to discover which of his friends and supporters were implicated in his criminal designs. Nothing was discovered; it was quite clear that if Stilicho meditated treason he had taken no one into his confidence.
The fall of Stilicho caused little regret in Italy. For thirteen and a half years this half-Romanised German had been master of Western Europe, and he had signally failed in the task of defending the inhabitants and the civilisation of the provinces against the greedy barbarians who infested its frontiers. He had succeeded in driving Alaric out of Italy, but he had not prevented him from invading it. He had annihilated the host of Radagaisus, but Radagaisus had first laid northern Italy waste. It was while the helm of state was in his hands that, as we have yet to see, Britain was nearly lost to the Empire, and Gaul devastated far and wide by barbarians who were presently to be lords in Spain and Africa. The difficulties of the situation were indeed enormous; but the minister who deliberately provoked and prosecuted a domestic dispute over the government of eastern Illyricum, and allowed his policy to be influenced by jealousy of Constantinople, when all his energies and vigilance were needed for the defence of the frontiers, cannot be absolved from responsibility for the misfortunes which befell the Roman state in  his own lifetime and for the dismemberment of the western realm which soon followed his death. Many evils would have been averted, and particularly the humiliation of Rome, if he had struck Alaric mercilessly—and Alaric deserved no mercy—as he might have done more than once, and as a patriotic Roman general would not have hesitated to do. The Roman provincials might well feel bitter over the acts and policy of this German, whom the unfortunate favour of Theodosius had raised to the supreme command. When an imperial edict designated him as a public brigand who had worked to enrich and to excite the barbarian races, the harsh words probably expressed the public opinion.
The death of the man who had been proclaimed a public enemy at Constantinople altered the relations between the two imperial governments. Concord and friendly co-operation succeeded coldness and hostility. The edict which Stilicho had caused Honorius to issue, excluding eastern traders from western ports, was rescinded. The Empire was again really, as well as nominally, one. The Romans of the west, like the Romans of the east, had shown that they did not wish to be governed by men of German race, and the danger did not occur again for forty years.
[The Visigoths in Italy and in Gaul]